How To Survive Montanita on $5 a Day

Montanita Ecuador photos

surf anyone?

Montañita is a wildly popular destination for those backpacking through South America . Set on Ecuador’s Ruta del Sol, Montañita’s white stretch of sand and raw backpacker vibe encourages travelers to stay for weeks or months on end.

If you’ve been longing to indulge in a gourmet meal or stock up on funky souvenirs, Montañita offers a million ways to blow your budget.

However, even with the rampant temptation this beach bum haven provides, the disciplined backpacker can survive on just $5 a day.

Who Needs A Room?

The majority of Montañita’s long-term foreign residents are living on one of the cheap campgrounds a few blocks from the center of the action. Showers, a kitchen, tents available for rent, and a sense of community all come at just $1.50 a day – it doesn’t get much cheaper than that. The campsites are located off the highway across from the bridge.

The $1.50 Lunch

me eating the $1.50 lunch (and then writing about it)

While your mouth waters for comfort foods from home, your wallet doesn’t allow for it. There are at least two places that offer a $1.50 lunch that will keep you full until the sun sets. Two are on 15 de Mayo between the church and the corner and have signs outside that advertise the low-budget lunch.

Speaking of Cheap Food…

A group of penny pinchers can pinch pennies better than one penny pincher pinching pennies alone (say that three times fast). Round up a few people from the campsite and cook together. Depending on the size of the group, $1 per person will get you enough rice, pasta, and veggies for a gut-busting dinner with plenty of leftovers and a couple of new friends.

Get a Job

Montanita Ecuador photos

local jewelry seller

While turning your vacation into a working holiday might not have been in the plans, Montañita is a great place to earn a few extra dollars. Whether you’re a talented artesano, juggle fire, play the didgeridoo, or make a mean fruit salad, Montañita has a thousand opportunities for budding entrepreneurs. Thanks to the small local population and high demand for staff, a lot of the bigger restaurants and bars regularly hire backpackers, especially in popular times like the end of the year.

Say No to Cover

For being a tiny town, Montañita offers a variety of nightlife options, from rock bars to wine bars to decked-out nightclubs. On special event nights, some of the better bars charge a cover to enter. Skip the $3 fee and head to one that’s free. Try the cabañas on the beach just around the corner from Nativa Bambu. You can pick the one with the hottest DJ and shake it like a salt shaker without paying anything.

The Best Things Are Free

Montanita Ecuador photos

watching the sunset

When you’re not passing out flyers or doing backbends on the street to make end’s meet, the hot days and long nights give you plenty of time to burn. You can sit on the curb with a few jewelry makers and people watch, hit the beach for the sunset, and check out the nightly street show without opening up your wallet. The most interesting things to do in Montañita are completely free (though the performers do appreciate a tip).

Learn From the Pros

Finding the cheapest stuff is easy when you tap into the long-term backpacking crowd. The footwork for finding the tienda with the cheapest bottled water, the fruit seller offering bargain prices for bananas, and how to eat breakfast with just coins in your purse has already been done. All you have to do is ask.

Are you a Montañita junkie? How do you stretch your dollars?

  • I really enjoyed this style of writing, almost poetic. I still haven’t made it down to Montanita. Sounds really relaxing though the strong hippy vibe might turn me off a bit.

  • This is just awesome :) I am currently in Costa Rica and it got me wondering what beach area I could settle down in and live cheaply, and this looks delightful :) I will have to do my research, but it may have just been added to my bucket list!

  • This is just awesome :) I am currently in Costa Rica on the beach so it got me wondering what beach area I could (futuristically speaking) settle down in for a cheap lifestyle. I have to do my research, but this may have just been added to my bucket list to go visit :) Mucho gracias!

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  • Montañita is MUCH cheaper than Costa Rica, you´d go crazy here :)

  • Thanks Jason! If you’re not a hippie fan, I’d advise you to give yourself a good 50-mile radius from Montanita LOL

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  • I went to Montañita in 2006 for a few days during Semana Santa (big mistake) and everyone in Ecuador was trying to make it there. It was so packed I could hardly surf without hitting people in the head with the board and there was literally no accommodation available.The fact that I wasn’t charged anything to camp and got to hear a bunch of djs from around the world perform for free was the only upside to it being so busy . However, as a result I couldn’t relax or sleep all too much. I had to hitchhike to a town several km from Montañita to get a good night sleep.

    I look forward to returning for a relaxing few days in the off season with my wife in the not so distant future. 

  • Yeah, Montanita isn’t the place to get some R&R that’s for sure!

  • Do you think it’d be possible to get a campsite without a reservation at this time of year?

  • I’m not really sure because I never camped, but availability on the campsites didn’t seem like it was a problem when I was there.

  • Nate

    Really cool article. I’ve been researching the town for a few weeks and this is the first I’ve heard of the camping availability. Excellent bit of knowledge! Happy travels Jasmine!

  • Great, Nate! Hope you enjoy Montañita as much as I did.